Foreign Policy Blogs

World Day Against Child Labor

As children across the United States begin to break from school for summer vacations, others across the globe have yet to see a classroom and their is no ‘break’ for them this summer as they are forced to work.  The term “child labor” is most often defined as work which deprives children of their childhood, potential, dignity, education, and that is harmful to physical and mental development.  According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) some 215 million children are in situations of child labor exploitation. UNICEF places 16 percent of children between the ages of 5-14 years old in developing countries are engaged in forms of child labor, and in the least developed countries the number almost doubles to 29 percent overall, while Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of child labor at 33 percent.

Today marks World Day Against Child Labor, the day was first established in 2002 by the ILO as a way to highlight the plight of these children. The day, which is observed every year on June 12th, is intended to serve as a catalyst for the growing worldwide movement against child labour, reflected in the huge number of ratifications of ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour and ILO Convention No. 138 on the minimum age for employment.  The 2011 theme focuses on ending the worst forms of child labor.

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) there is an estimated 165 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 actively involved in child labor. Children are often forced to work long hours and are often forced to work in harsh and dangerous conditions. Child labor has a direct link to poverty, and provides a substantial barrier to a child’s education…thus enabling a barrier to a child’s education and increasing the literacy gap. Education is often taken for granted in developing nations, however many poor and impoverished families are forced to face the choose to send their child to school or work to help the family…it is that choice that has sent millions of children out of the classroom, often disparagingly girls, to toil in fields, factories, homes and the streets.

While the complete eradication of child labor has been made a priority in many countries across the globe, the goals are a long way off from being achieved, and many countries are not looking at short-term solutions and programs. It is essential that those forms of child labor, which pose the highest safety and health risks, be immediately addressed. The majority of child labors, some three-fourths, are engaged in the worst forms of child labor, including; child soldiers, sexual exploitation and hazardous work in industries such as brick manufacturing.

The ILO just released their report, Children in Hazardous Work: What we know, what we need to know, this month.  According to the report there are 115 million children engaged in the most hazardous forms of labor, which endangered the child’s safety, health and development across the globe.  The report seeks to give urgent attention to the issue of children involved in the most hazardous work conditions based on:

  1. the scale of the problem – estimates place the current total of children in hazardous work at 115 million;
  2. the recent rise in hazardous work among older children – an increase of 20 per cent within 4 years; and
  3. the growing evidence that adolescents suffer high rates of injury at work, in comparison with adult workers.

The use of child labor impacts children’s rights in a multitude of aspects, the most detrimental in the long term is often seen in a child’s right to education. In order to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals by 2015, which has set to see that all children receive and complete a full their primary education, regardless of gender. However if the goals are to be meet then we must work to see that education is free, an issue which many families still struggle to attain funds for or are forced to choose between funds for school or often food for the family. Education is a major key in the battle in finding a sustainable end to child labor and must be at the forefront of the fight, for education not only a human right for all children, but the gateway out of poverty. Education is empowerment and empowerment is the key to brake the cycle of poverty. Nonetheless some 75 million children, worldwide, do not have the privilege of basic primary education. Other issues of major priority include; gender equality in all levels of education, education and awareness about the issues and facts of child labor, and teacher shortages.

The fight against child labor is a global fight, however it is a fight that can be won through unified global action, laws and the enforcement of such laws, empowerment/education, gender equality, and consumer awareness.



Cassandra Clifford
Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict